formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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July 26, 2011 Final Space Shuttle Mission

The Liberty Gazette
July 26, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Seagulls and pelicans crisscross and dive for fish in the Intercoastal Waterway until, suddenly, tranquility is ripped apart as a flash of light, eardrum-shattering blast, and earth shaking vibrations reverberate from 8.8 million pounds of thrust rocketing the Space Shuttle Atlantis into orbit at 17,500 mph. The thunder continues until the shuttle disappears from sight and all that is left is the dissipating plume of smoke, and wonderment and tears in the eyes that witnessed this final ascent.

Mike: Thursday, July 21, 2011 was an historical day. Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Florida ending a 13 day resupply mission to the International Space Station. Sadly this ended more than an era. There will be no more space flights for the orbiter. Once all the dangerous fluids are removed and it is somewhat cleaned up, Atlantis will remain at Kennedy on public display.

Space Shuttle Endeavour will be on display in the California Science Center in Los Angeles, not far from where she was created. The Space Shuttles were built by Rockwell International in Downey, California with final assembly in Palmdale, near Edwards Air Force Base.

Space Shuttle Discovery, the only surviving original shuttle to go into space will replace the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the orbiter prototype which never actually went into space, at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C.

Space Shuttle Enterprise will be moved from Washington D.C. to New York City’s floating aircraft carrier museum, the USS Intrepid, the recovery ship for Aurora-7 and Gemini-3 space flight missions back in 1963 and 1965 respectively. New York claims the Enterprise once flew over the city in 1983 while conducting upper atmospheric tests.

At Johnson Space Center in Houston, no Orbiters will be placed on display and the shuttle simulators and associated equipment are to be divvied out to other museums across the country. In what seems a direct slap, two seats from one of the earlier Space Shuttle missions are the only items to remain for display in Houston – Space City.

Linda: This makes 135 Space Shuttle missions over the past 30 years, Atlantis having flown 32 of them. While the 12 year project to assemble the components of the International Space Station is currently the most visible achievement of the shuttle program, there have been a multitude of others, less visible. We’ve benefitted from the technology developed out of the program with over 100 different technical advances. From the development of light weight fuel pumps came a light weight (less than 4 ounces) heart pump in use today. From the leak detection system developed for the shuttle, a commercially viable vehicle was developed with natural gas as its fuel. Fly-By-Wire and Drive-By-Wire technology used in today’s vehicles decreasing weight and increasing fuel efficiency came directly from the shuttle program. And don’t forget the Hubble Telescope and the 180 other satellites launched into orbit from the shuttles.

Mike: Only 37 of the 135 missions were dedicated to the International Space Station’s construction; but it would never have been built without it. Commercial space travel is being encouraged and resupply missions are being taken over by the Russians. Until the U.S. becomes a leader again the future of space travel will remain in question, but shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson offered these uplifting words: “America’s not going to stop exploring.”

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